FIRST-PERSON: You don't reap what you sow; you reap more

DURHAM, N.C. (BP) -- Plant a wheat seed, and it will turn into a wheat stalk that can produce hundreds of wheat seeds. Plant an acorn, and it will grow into an oak tree that will produce thousands of acorns.

In the harvest, what comes back to you is always greater than what you sowed.

This also works for the things we don't want to see multiplied. Anybody who has ever tried to grow a nice lawn of fescue knows that if you get even the smallest amount of Bermuda grass there, it will take over.

People sometimes feel like this law of multiplication is unfair -- not in agriculture or lawn care, but in their lives. They make a few bad decisions, and when life falls apart, they think, "Well, I know I haven't always made the wisest decisions, but I don't deserve all this."

But what they are experiencing is probably not punishment; it is harvest. That's true with sinful habits we sow into our lives. It's true with corrupt thoughts we fill our minds with. And, startlingly, it's true with how we raise our kids.

I can't tell you how many Christian parents are surprised when their kids go off to college and walk away from the faith. "But we raised them in church," they say. But were church and your walk with God really that important to you? You attended sporadically. You didn't volunteer. You weren't in a small group. You didn't do missions or serve with your kids or read the Bible together or pray together. Your kids weren't involved in the student ministry. You frequently missed church for sports events or dance or trips to the beach. You raised your kids around God, but He was only a second-tier priority.

Is it any surprise, then, that this nonchalant attitude multiplied in your kids' lives when they went to college? Your half-commitment wasn't just replicated in your kids. It multiplied in them.

Now, I want to be clear that this isn't an ironclad rule. Kids leave the faith for a number of reasons. But I'm concerned that what many parents -- Christian parents -- are sowing in their kids is a little bit of Jesus and whole lot of materialism.

You can also apply the "law of greater" to money. When it comes to our finances, Scripture indicates that the harvest is greater in both magnitude and kind. As to magnitude, Malachi 3:10 says, "Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need" (CSB). In other words, we cannot out-give God.

And when we sow our finances, it also produces a harvest that is greater in kind. To put it differently, sowing to God's purposes doesn't just produce more. It produces better.

The way the apostle Paul puts it in Galatians 6:8 is that we reap "eternal life from the Spirit" by sowing to the Spirit. When we sow generosity, God uses that to produce spiritual fruit in our lives (called the "harvest of righteousness" in 2 Corinthians) -- and that is a gift far more valuable than money.

In Matthew 6, one of the most important biblical passages about money, Jesus said to be generous with our finances because "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). I normally think of that in reverse -- that where my heart is, that's where my treasure will be. (True enough.) But Jesus says that giving is a way to change the loves of our hearts. One of the ways we can train our hearts to love God and not the world is to give money in a way that transfers our treasure from the world to the Kingdom of heaven.

Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza, shared that what drove him to succeed in life was the desire to have more and succeed more than everyone else. But after seeing how prideful his heart had become and how miserable that attitude had made him, he decided to take a new approach. He adopted a very simple lifestyle, set a modest limit on what he'd live on, and committed to give away everything else to the Kingdom of God. He says the latter approach has filled him with more joy than all the stuff he used to spend his money on.

Sow to the world, and you'll only get the dregs that the world can offer you. Sow to the Spirit and watch as God infuses blessing into all of your life. The harvest of your life will be greater than you could ever imagine. So sow to the right one today.

J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and author of several books including Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send.
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